NASA and the LSU Symposium (Oct 2007)

What are ships made for? They are not safe in the harbor. They are made to sail and to move forward into the unknown.
June Scobee Rogers, speaker at the LSU Symposium, wife of astronaut Dick Scobee who died with his crew when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded on January 28th 1986.

Berrimilla and NASA

2005: During the first circumnavigation, while crossing the Southern Ocean towards Cape Horn and later in the South Atlantic, Berrimilla’s nearest neighbours for a short time each day were the crew of the International Space Station (ISS), NASA Astronaut Dr. Leroy Chiao and Russian Cosmonaut Colonel Salizhan Sharipov.

The ISS was in orbit about 300 km above and the two crews were in contact several times. They recognised the similarity of their situations.

Leroy retired from NASA in 2006 and, in his new life as the first Raborn Distinguished Chair Professor at Louisiana State University (LSU), he invited Alex and Peter to take part in a Symposium on Risk and Exploration, using their voyage as a simple analogue for a journey into deep space.

The Symposium was “Risk and Exploration:  Earth as a Classroom,” an international conference featuring presentations and conversations about the nature of risk in exploration in an effort to better understand the the risks involved in journeys into deep space.

Nearly 40 of the world’s most compelling and dynamic space, terrestrial, and oceanic explorers gathered on the LSU campus for three days in October 2007 to share their unique risk-taking philosophies and perspectives related to exploration of our planet and beyond.

In their presentation, Alex and Peter speculated on the apparent similarities between extended space travel and long ocean voyages:

  • Two people together in a confined space for 6 months or more, absolutely dependent on their craft for survival in a hostile environment.
  • Tolerance, lack of ego, teamwork and professionalism essential.
  • The boat is a lot less comfortable than the ISS but neither is an easy place to live.
  • Both crews need to dress up to go outside, and to hook on when out there.
  • And to conserve resources, like water and chocolate.
  • And for creative improvisation when things start to go wrong, at which time the crew is constrained by the effectiveness of the planning and by what they have with them in their craft.
  • Each has limited communications and the chance of rescue is pretty remote.
  • A significant difference, and one that Leroy picked up, was that Berrimilla had a supply of purely medicinal alcohol in the boat. They are officially dry in the ISS.

Pascal Lee’s map

After the Symposium, many of the participants gathered in the LSU Campus pub where Pascal Lee drew a map in Alex’s notebook and invited him to rendezvous at Devon Island in the North West Passage on August 1st 2008 for the total eclipse.

The map became the chart and the symbol for the second circumnavigation.